People: Hiring and keeping the team you want

Your people are the foundation on which your whole business enterprise is built. 

The people you employ deal face-to-face with your customers, drive your internal processes and uphold the underlying values and strengths of your brand. So having the best possible team behind you is vitally important to the short and long-term success of your company.

But how do you find those A-class people in the first place? And how do you keep the best people in the team and manage their performance over time?

We’ve pulled together some top tips on hiring and keeping the team you want.

Hiring the right people

When you’re looking to grow your team and expand the skillset of your workforce, its vital that you hire the right people for the job. But that can be easier said than done.

Research shows that as little as 25% of hires and promotions turn out to be high performers. That’s a discouraging statistic when you think that 75% of those hires aren’t delivering the A-class performance that you the employer expect.

So, how do you change your hiring process to guarantee a better success rate?

It’s a topic that’s covered in detail in Brad and Geoff Smart’s book, ‘Topgrading (How To Hire, Coach and Keep A Players)’

And the key learning point from the book is to ‘topgrade’ your team and replace the low-performing, C-class employees with A-class people – people who have the quality skillset and high standards needed to deliver on your core business aims.

Brad has spent many years helping big businesses to improve their hiring techniques, and he’s distilled his experience into six key points that will deliver a better hit-rate when you’re searching for those topgrade hires.

  1. Topgrade from the top down 

    Managers tend to hire people who match their own level of ability. So you need A-players at the top of your organisation: A-players who will gravitate towards and hire other A-players.

  2. Constantly reinforce the A-player standard

    – Make sure that the high-quality standard is always in place. An A-player doesn’t see high quality as ‘outstanding performance’ they see it as ‘meeting the expected performance’.

  3. Only allow A-players to hire and promote

    – If a B or C-player carries out interviews, you won’t get A-player hires. Get involved in the interview process yourself, and run them in tandem with one of your top people to guarantee the right outcome and a level of objectivity in any decision-making.

  4. Strive for 100% A-players

    – Your aim should always be to have a team that’s made up of 100% A-players – but be happy if you can attain closer to 90%. In the real world, you won’t always reach this goal, but aiming high keeps your focus on those topgrade people.

  5. Measure assessment success

    – Very few businesses measure the effectiveness of their hiring processes. To be a topgrade business, you should be measuring the performance of your hired and promoted people – and checking whether they attain that A-player standard.

  6. Train all your managers in top-grading

    – Eventually, your managers will be the A-players carrying out interviews and hiring their own team members. Make sure they’re trained up in these topgrading techniques and understand the power of lengthy, detailed tandem interviews that find the true A-class diamonds among the C-class coal. 

Look for the employment gaps

So, you have some practical tips for improving your hiring processes and topgrading your HR procedures. But how do you spot the interviewees who are hiding their C-class skills under an A-class exterior?

One key area to focus on when reading through resumes, and carrying out tandem interviews, is to look for tell-tale gaps in the interviewee’s employment history.

Take a very close look at any prospective employee’s career background and check that there are no unexpected gaps or period where they weren’t working. There may be completely innocent reasons for a gap in employment – caring for a family member, or a long period of illness etc. – but there may also be something more worrying being hidden by this omission.

Dig into their history and ask the right questions about any gaps. Were they fired from a previous role? If so, why were they fired? And could that same behavior re-appear if you took them on in your own team?

Remember, you’re looking for an A-player to join your business.

TORC – Threat of a reference check

If you’re starting to see question marks around a particular interviewee, it’s well worth getting in contact with their stated referees to get some much-needed first-hand feedback on their abilities and performance.

And the ‘threat of a reference check’ (TORC) can serve to weed out those candidates who have been less than honest in their job application. If an interviewee has boosted their experience, been untruthful about their qualifications or given an unfair view of their abilities, a reference check will soon reveal the truth.

The mere threat of a reference check will often chase the undesireables away. Try it by placing a statement similar to this in the instuctions to applicants: “An important part of our screening process includes having you make appointments with your references to speak with us about your qualifications.” A-players are proud of their record.

And, as always, when you’re talking to a previous employer, get to the facts of the matter and ascertain if this person is truly an A-player, or whether they’re a C-class sheep in an A-class wolf’s clothing.

Using a scorecard to measure performance

If you do decide to hire a new team member, it’s extremely helpful to measure their performance once they’re in role and working within the team.

Implementing a scorecard approach, instead of having a static, unchanging job description, can be highly effective. By measuring the most important aspects of your new hire’s role, you can track performance and see if they are truly achieving the A-class performance you need from them.

For example, if you’re hiring an in-store sales person, these measure could be numbers of customers greeted, number of customer enquiries converted into sales, or quality of customer feedback on this individual.

The key is for the elements you choose to be measurable, trackable and built into the performance review process for this person.

Very soon, you’ll know if you have an A-player on the team, or a C-player who won’t make it through their probation period.

Read more about topgrading your hires

Hiring and promoting the right talent really is one of the most crucial elements of managing your business. 

Get it wrong, and you have a workforce of C-players who will consistently miss your targeted goals and deliver a sub-standard experience to your customers. But get it right, and you’ll have a team of high-achieving A-players who have the skills, drive and ambition to take your company to the next level.

Oh, and do contact us for a simple Gazelles coaching tool for classifying your team as A, B or C players.

You can read lots more about topgrading your business in Brad Smart’s book. We’d advise reading it from cover to cover before you make that next important hire!

Written by

Steve Moss, CPA is a partner at Holden Moss CPAs and loves helping businesses and their owners grow to be the very best they can be. Our other offices include Raleigh, Oxford and Warrenton. We are a little different at Holden Moss CPAs. While we still provide traditional tax and accounting services, years ago we realized many clients wanted help in running their businesses and were hungry for ideas, solutions, strategy, and execution. In response, we expanded our skill set and joined Ran One, a global network of business consulting firms. Our membership with Ran One gives us access to proprietary resources and analytical software to help our clients grow, become more profitable and valuable, and have the lifestyle they desire. Now, blended into the fabric of our normal tax and accounting needs, we are focused on our clients’ businesses in a very different way. While our approach is not right for everyone, for those whom it is, incredible results may be obtained. Whether you have a new, or established, business, or for those in transition of selling or retiring, or for those who simply need to develop an exit strategy or succession plan, our unique approach to client service may be the edge you need.

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